Electric Vehicles Winter Isn't Over Yet – Volvo's C30 Electric Survives Ultra-Cold Winter Testing

Published on March 29th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen

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Winter Isn't Over Yet – Volvo's C30 Electric Survives Ultra-Cold Winter Testing

Volvo C30 Winter TestingDespite the warming temperatures and the blooming trees, springtime in Chicago always carries with it the chances of a late-season and eternally unexpected snowstorm. But if you’re driving a Volvo C30 electric, you’ll probably still be okay – it’s been tested to -33°C.

That battery function in electric cars is greatly reduced in winter is common knowledge; the diminished capacity results from not only turning on the heat (and using up precious electricity) but also from reduced internal resistance in the battery cells. Volvo has found a potentially workable solution to this problem, although it required significant technical effort and is not entirely without carbon dioxide emissions.

Pining for the Fjords

Volvo brought the C30 electric to the snowy north of Sweden to test how well it would work in super low (and super high) temperatures. The idea was to ensure that it would be fully usable in any temperature its driver could reasonably expect to encounter.

The C30 was placed in a climate-controlled chamber overnight and cooled to a frosty -25°C (or -13°F, and it’s not that cold in March even in the northern Scandinavian countries). After exiting the chamber, the C30 had heated up its cabin to a toasty 22°C (around 72°F) thanks to its 5kW fuel-driven auxiliary heater.

Wait, That’s Using Fossil Fuel

Volvo’s solution did indeed involve the use of a gasoline-powered auxiliary heater, making it a little more of a hybrid than a pure electric car. On the other hand, the use of a fuel operated heater means the C30 retains more battery life, and if it’s actually plugged into a network, it can get away with using no fuel at all. (Also in theory, the fuel could be something other than gasoline – bioethanol, perhaps.)

The fuel for the auxiliary heater is stored in a 3 gallon tank; the driver has the option to tell the C30 exactly how to use its fuel to heat both the battery and the interior of the car. Although one could just turn off the heater (as the Scandinavians say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”), keeping the battery itself warm does improve battery life.

Or Just Let The Car Decide

If the driver doesn’t program the car, Volvo’s system automatically kicks in to heat up the battery when the temperature falls below -15°C (about 5°F). If the car is parked without the possibility of recharging the battery (in other words, when it’s not plugged in), the heater kicks in at -19°C (around -3°F) in order to maintain battery integrity.

Lennart Stegland, director of the Department of Special Vehicles at Volvo Car Corporation, feels that incorporating the auxiliary heater is the best possible compromise to keep the driver warm and improve battery life. As reported by Green Motors Blog, he said:

“Preheating the car at –10°C (15°F) improves the car’s range by about 10km (6 miles) when compared to a cold start, as the cold start requires heavily draining the battery in order to quickly warm the car.”

Check out Volvo’s promotional video in English:

Source | Image: Green Motors Blog



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About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.



  • http://www.volvo-dealers.com Volvo USA

    No wonder they resist that kind of temperatures since they’re built in Sweden.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      You’d think that, if that logic held through, Italian cars (being built on a peninsula surrounded by salt water) would never rust. And yet …

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